Eelco Schattorie expecting the unexpected, John Gregory looking for three points
Written by: Arindam Sarmah
The Highlanders defeated the Marina Machans in the reverse fixture of the league earlier this season.
With the Indian Super League back after a month-long break, NorthEast United are all set to begin proceedings, as they play host to defending champions Chennaiyin FC. The Marina Machans are currently at the bottom of the table, whereas NorthEast are currently in fourth place in the standings. The Highlanders have suffered only two defeats and are in a position to make it to the playoffs for the first time in their history, with only six matches to go.
Ahead of their much-anticipated encounter, both NEUFC and Chennaiyin coaches met the media to share their opinion about the match and other things.
Eelco Schattorie (NorthEast United)
Though NorthEast suffered a huge 5-1 loss away to FC Goa in their last game before the break, they have been very consistent with their defence so far. Going into tomorrow's clash, The Highlanders' form at home will be their main concern, as a 2-1 victory against the struggling Kerala Blasters is the only win they have managed in Guwahati.
During the break, NorthEast brought in Greek midfielder Panagiotis Tridis to replace Augustine Okrah, whereas Shouvik Ghosh was signed from Mumbai City, having previously played for NorthEast during the 2016-17 ISL campaign.
With six games in hand and the playoffs in sight, head coach Eelco Schattorie was a bit worried with his team's preparation coming from the long break. He said, "The most difficult thing in any team is that we are in a stage where we have reached a level that we are in the top four."
"So, you reach a certain level at this moment where we get a break and after the break, you try to setup a plan to make the team stronger to prepare for the next part," he added. "The only thing I'm really not happy with is the two friendly games that we played were at a very low level," Schattorie said.
Chennaiyin, on the other hand, are already out of the race for the playoffs and are re-building their team with the AFC Cup in mind. However, the Dutchman didn't want to take them lightly and said, "Any league, it doesn't matter which levels you play the opening game, either at the beginning of the season or now after the break, the two teams meeting each other is always like two bulls hitting on each other."
"I have no idea what to expect. Maybe, the coach changed formations and there are all question marks that are open. As I said, I can only prepare our team as good as possible and we'll take it from there," he signed off.
John Gregory (Chennaiyin FC)
The Marina Machans have been poor defensively, having conceded 24 goals so far, which is just one less than what they shipped in the whole of the third season. Having won just one away game this term, Saturday's match will play a crucial role as the visitors have only won twice against The Highlanders in the ISL.
Talking about the team's mentality coming after the break coach John Gregory said, "It's been a great time for everybody connected with our team to reassess where we're at, where we want to be and how we're going to get there."
"We have six matches to play. We want to win all the games and put some points on the board. We want to try and gain as much momentum as we can to take us into the AFC Cup which begins in March," he added.
Coach Gregory also talked about the players' mentality, having less pressure being out of the playoffs battle and said, "12 months ago, the pressure on us was obviously a lot greater than maybe it is at the moment. So, it does give players a bit more of a chance to relax. But, there's other things. Almost 90% of my players will be out of contract in the summer and they're playing for contracts."
During the winter break, Chennaiyin have managed to rope in forwards CK Vineeth and Holicharan Narzary from Kerala Blasters. The Englishman then talked about the transfers and said, "It's a no-brainer to bring in two quality players like CK and Hali. They're readymade. You know they're not coming in from abroad, where they've got to get used to the country, to the customs, to the way things are done in India, which all foreigners have to adapt to."
Though all the players are not entirely match fit, Schattorie will have his entire squad at his disposal for the first time this season. The likes of Kivi Zhimomi and Provat Lakra, who had suffered serious injuries are back in training for The Highlanders.
Chennaiyin, on the other hand, will be missing the services of their Brazillian captain Mailson Alves who is serving a three-match suspension.
Did You Know?
Bartholomew Ogbeche has taken the most number of shots in the league (49) so far.
NorthEast United have the lowest shot accuracy in the league (27.00%).
Chennaiyin have conceded 2.00 goals on an average per match, which is their worst record in the ISL over the five seasons.
The match will take place on Saturday at 7:30 PM at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. On television, the match will be live on Star Sports. Meanwhile, it will also be streamed on Hotstar and Jio TV.
Published: Fri Jan 25, 2019 11:13 PM IST